Senior games prove serious and fun
Skill is vital, of course, but ultimately it comes down to strategy: Focus on throwing the bocce near the pallino, or use it to knock the other team’s bocci away from the pallino? Throw it underhand or with a backspin? Huff and holler in Italian like they do back in Napoli, or play it Stoic?
It’s a mental game, this bocce ball, one that can become very competitive if the players so choose.
Monday morning, though, the players found a sweet spot between serious play and fun. It was an opening event in the week-long Western Colorado Senior Games, which will culminate Friday with track and field events and a health fair. In between, there will be competitive swimming, basketball and golf, billiards, Nintendo Wii bowling, pickleball and pinochle, among other games.
The games, organized and hosted by Grand Junction Parks and Recreation, are designed to include a wide range of people and emphasize fun, activity and involvement, said Lorie Gregor, recreation coordinator with Parks and Recreation. This year, she said, 132 people registered to participate in the various events, up from the 120 who competed last year.
The more physically competitive events are organized into age divisions — 50 to 54, 55 to 59 and so on.
“We have some people in their 90s who’re participating,” Gregor said, adding some of the participants are longtime athletes who enjoy having another venue for competition and fun.
One of the most popular events is the pickleball tournament, she said. The game, a cross between tennis and ping-pong, was added to the senior games last year, and this year people have come from around the region to participate.
Monday morning, Fruita couple Ron and Gretchen Annan faced Ken Rabideau and Eldon Beard, both of Grand Junction. Wielding solid rackets slightly larger than ping-pong paddles and playing with a heavy whiffle ball, they darted around the pickleball court, scooping last-minute saves, making unlikely ground strokes and smashing the ball back at their opponents. Needless to say, they broke a sweat.
Meanwhile, over at Hawthorne Park, Mike Hill and Wendy Logan faced Liz Morris and Richard McPeek in a close bocce ball match.
“Good one, Liz!” McPeek exclaimed when Morris bowled a red bocce near the small, white pallino. “Good one! Thank you.”
But then, Hill flung a blue bocce in an arching backspin and knocked Morris’s red one away from the pallino, kicking up a spray of sand and throwing the gauntlet.
“OK!” Logan said, clapping. “We need points.”
She lined up her shot like she was bowling and sent the bocce sailing, grinning when it landed near where she aimed it. The game was close and the competition was just enough, and the senior games were a ball.